If you spend too much time looking up, imagining how it must feel like to be up there instead of where you are, I’d have you know that someone up there is looking down wondering the same thing, only in reverse. It’s funny how surreal an experience can be for an unsuspecting dreamer. Yes, sometimes, you do wake up and find you’re there.
Or, at least, you were.
Once in a lifetime. Some opportunities do come only once and never again. One would be so lucky to be conscious when it arrives and would have a good mind to grab it. These opportunities often present high risks. But think of the risk as relative; presenting you with choices that may lead you in different directions, or cause you to embark on a journey to unknown territory, all in an effort to mold you into who you are meant to be.
Spending roughly 4 months in a place so foreign, I had spent considerable time watching it from a perspective of a certain height. A good amount of my stay was spent at the tallest structure in Downtown Yangon, the Sakura Tower. I’d regularly step out on the narrow veranda on the top floor, endure the criminal heat, to spend quality time with pigeons and the occasional cloud. It was my first time to be based in a country — majority speak the local language alone, no less — with no family or friends around plus the value I put on personal time and space, I would find myself alone a lot.
I treasure those moments. It was sympathetic to my circumstance and instrumental to my learning.
You learn what you would endure to be able to do what you think you want to do. You become aware of the bigger picture; how much change you can actually do in the world. You grasp the true significance of the life you’ve been leading; realising just how fortunate you are. You discover that if you open yourself up too soon or too late matters. You understand that, right there where you’re standing, you’re forever altered by a place that, ironically, has been left unchanged for decades.
One of the many thoughts that coursed through my head: I see how one must think how we are where we are and it ought to be so but, on the second look, we only appear to be because it’s the world we’ve built around us. Culture and traditions dropped as development needs it, we tell ourselves. But there I was, in a place with so much culture and traditions intact, feeling disoriented and a charlatan. I had to ask myself, what makes one a Filipino?
Weathering life’s storms. Choosing to look at it from that perspective had been significant to toughing it out. With every opportunity, there will be challenges. But, like with every concern, endeavor to put yourself in a position that will command a view of all vantage points. Remembering the image of the bigger picture will actually paint a poignant likeness of dreams so lovely and a fate so luminous.
However captivated you are of the glorious sight of your destination, be mindful of each step you are about to take to get there. The countless things you will encounter along the way — from the filthy walk, foul smell, and a crazy volume of foot traffic that you have to work yourself against to having your bare feet macerated by respect of tradition, getting lost in translation, and realising that you could’ve skipped through the hard parts or taken other conventional routes, which promise ease and a clear path.
Learn how to let go and not have it affect the rest of your journey. Else, you might find yourself there, seeing it up close in all its majesty and soul, yet ill prepared to be there. Take your time. Don’t rush things. Yes, truly want to be there through it all and nothing less. This will make all the difference.
Appreciate the beauty, it’s only natural. But not allowing a definition to evolve into a more astute perception will only limit you.
Find the charm in the urban wilderness. Sanction the place or the journey to surprise you and it will. Esteem rare moments of connection. Refuse labels and leave behind people who lack integrity or who fail to recognise a good thing simply because they’re blinded by ambition, regardless of how decrepit it may be.
Move and your perspective will change and it will change you.
Be curious and explore. Face your fear and look at things with a fresh eye. You will weed out the undeserving from the lot, after giving them the benefit of the doubt. View each occurrence with kindness and a big heart. Even the most sinister of roads you’d take will be tolerable; will serve as a mentor that will transform you into an exceptional version of yourself.
It’s interesting how dirty rooftops and a messy clump of concrete, steel and wood can be an astonishing backdrop for a fancy place. I realised, it’s how you look at things that make them beautiful and not because they sparkle in their fresh youth or they fit to what the conventional definition of what best is. I learned with age that character and the shared story it magically holds make something wondrously beautiful to me.
Sometimes, some amazing ideas shine their brightest at the darkest of hours. All you have to do is keep your eyes open. Works best when your heart is wide open, too.
For the countless insights and for the care you’ve shown my soul, I’m grateful.
Thank you, Yangon.